Aviary and Enclosure
Design and Construction
 
 
2.      AVIARY CONSTRUCTION

Please click on thumbnail pictures to enlarge

After you have worked out the size and shape of your aviary there are several methods of construction you may wish to consider.

Let us assume, for arguments sake that you are going to build your aviary using the most common method, i.e. steel and weldmesh.

The first question you must ask yourself is - is this aviary a fixture or am I going to want to move it sometime in the future?    You may decide to move house in ten years time and if you make your aviary as a fixture you’ll have to start again (which is not always a bad thing), but if you want to take your aviary with you then you could use the method I have adopted and make it in panel form.

My aviaries are generally constructed as bolt together panels using 20mm(3/4”) x 20mm(3/4”) x 1.6mm(1/16”) galvanised square steel tube, Australian manufactured Weldmesh and Lo-rib zincalume (or Colourbond) solid sections.    The wire is attached to the galvanised square steel tube (or frame) with aluminium rivets and then covered with a galvanised steel strip attached with Tek screws.    On the wire panels there will be a kick panel at ground level unless otherwise specified.

Fig 1.   Rough sketch of aviary

However I have also built aviaries as ‘fixtures’, which employs a somewhat different method of construction even though the basics are very similar.

The Panels (or Frames)

If you are making a panel type aviary the very first thing you must do is to draw yourself a plan or sketch of the finished product.    (See fig1.)

You would then draw each side, roof (and floor if there is one) as separate items and work out from each of these sketches what lengths of steel you are going to need.  (See fig 2.)

Fig 2.   Sketch of each of the panels

Having done this you can then start to cut all your steel to the correct length not forgetting to drill the holes where you are going to bolt each panel together.    It’s much easier to do that at this stage rather than after you have assembled each panel.

Weld your lengths of steel together making sure your corners are square.    This is critical otherwise the finished product will not fit together and tempers will become frayed at the time of assembly.    The easiest way to square each panel is to tack-weld the outside pieces first to make a rectangle (or square) then measure diagonally corner to corner, clamp and then finish weld.    Using this method you don’t need a T-square.    You can then weld in all your internal pieces.


After you have finished all the welding I find it is a good idea to grind the welds flat and then treat each weld with some kind of cold galv. or killrust otherwise the joint will rust.     The reason for grinding the welds flat is that it makes life a lot easier later on, particularly when you come to fixing the wire and zincalume in place – also the finished article looks better.

Figure 3.
Assembled panels


W
eld up the whole aviary, panel by panel and then assemble it before you start to attach wire etc. just to make sure it goes together properly.    The photograph at figure 3 shows an aviary complex (of six with centre covered area) assembled prior to the attaching of wire, zincalume etc.    You will be able to make minor adjustments or correct mistakes at this stage, which will be much more difficult, if not impossible, later on.

Figure 4.
Partly assembled gable roof aviary
 

The aviary at fig.4. is typical of the panel method; I have even employed this method with the gable roof as the next photograph will show (see fig. 5.).     The aviary consists of two wall panels each side, one wall panel each end and the gable roof, which consists of another seven panels.    All of these simply bolt together.

Figure 5.
Un-assembled gable
roof

Figure 5 shows the roof sections of the gable roof aviary before the wire and zincalume sheet has been attached.    It consists of four side panels and three triangles.    The third triangle was used at the centre and had no wire or other materials attached to it as it was used purely for support.    

Figure 6. Round top aviary

If you are considering a round-topped aviary, (see fig. 6), this can be done with the wire alone (without any frame) but you must use a  heavy gauge wire or the finished product will not support its own weight.    However, if you prefer, and have the correct equipment, you can bend your steel to suit the arc you need.    This, however, is not as easy as it might sound.

For example – don’t try bending 20mm square tube unless you have proper bending equipment – it will twist.    Rectangular section is much more forgiving.      Round is easy to bend but tricky when it come to fixing solid materials (e.g. zincalume sheet) to it, and can often be the cause of a lot of profanities.

Wire and Zincalume Sheet

To attach the wire to the frame, and let’s assume for arguments sake that we are using weldmesh as it would be the most popular product, I generally start in one corner.    Then drill and rivet either side of that corner and use the same procedure at the opposite parallel corner; then repeat the process in the other two corners.    Don’t try to stretch weldmesh – it doesn’t like it and you’ll end up with an untidy finish.    If you use the method described above you should find that it will pull tight and will lay down nice and flat and then you can rivet along each side.

Once you have the wire in place the next step is to attach the steel tapes along the edges to cover the raw ends of the weldmesh.   You will have previously cut your tapes to the required length, which would be 20 or 30mm ( - 1”) longer than each of the edges you are covering.    I found the easiest way to fix the tapes in place is to attach one corner first, by Tek-screwing two strips together.     Having done this you will then need a pair of grips of some sort to pull one of these strips tight to the next corner and fix it in place with another strip of galvanised tape for the next edge.    You can then repeat the process along the adjacent side.    (Very difficult to put into writing but I know what I’m talking about!).     Repeat this process along all exposed wire edges but remember that where the zincalume sheet overlaps a wire section, you will not be able to use Tekscrews, as they will not allow the zincalume to lay flat.    At these points you must use rivets.    The zincalume sheet can be quite simply attached with Tek-screws.    I normally use one Tek screw per valley and at 250mm intervals along the sides.

You will find that along the side of the zincalume that has the peak there is only a very small portion available in which to attach the Tekscrews (see fig. 7).

Figure 7.
Method of fixing where peak of zincalume meets edge of frame.  Note also ground
-down weld.

As the Tekscrews are generally larger than the piece of zincalume you are trying to attach them to, I have found that they tend to distort the zincalume along this edge.    I now use rivets for this purpose as shown in figures 7 and 8.    Please also note the ground down treated weld and the position of the Tekscews within each valley.

You will also see from these pictures that I use rivets to join each sheet of zincalume together.    There is a choice of ways to do this.    Sometimes I will join them together before attaching them to the steel frame but mostly I would do it once the zincalume is in place and fixed.

Figure 8.
 
Zincalume fixing points with samples of some colour choices

The main reason for joining zincalume sheets together before attaching them to a frame is that if the frame happens to be the same size as the peaks in the zincalume, then you have a problem.    This can be overcome by joining the zincalume sheets together, fix along one edge, then stretch or squeeze to suit the frame, fix the other edge and then finish in the normal manner.

Security Doors

Figure 9.
Aviary with internal safety door

This again, is an aviary of simple design, (see figure 9 and 10.), but which contains a security door.     This arrangement can be either inside or outside the confines of the aviary.    If it is on the inside you are going to lose a small amount of aviary space but it is easier to build as it takes less time, less material and is, therefore, less costly.     It is simply a matter of constructing two extra panels designed to fit inside the aviary at right angles to one another.    One would be a door panel, the other a plain wire panel which will form a box inside the aviary with adjacent doors.     The outside door should open outwards and the inside door should open inwards.

Figure 10.
Internal safety door shown from inside the aviary
 

If you wish to build one on the outside of the aviary you are going to have to construct three panels (to form the “airlock”) and also a roof panel as well.   It is purely a matter of choice and which of these designs better fits into your situation.

 

I have not spoken here much about building aviaries as fixtures or building in situ, as the principles involved are very similar, if not identical, to the building of animal enclosures which I will cover at length in the next two chapters.

It’s a little difficult to put into writing all the intricacies of manufacturing an aviary without it becoming very difficult to read, and perhaps confusing to the reader.    So I am going to suggest that if you are wishing to embark on such a project, and are in need of assistance, I will be only too happy to do what I can to get you out of whatever difficulty in which you find yourself.    Please feel free to contact me by email
 

Cont’d Part 3

Back to Part 1

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